Paso Robles named Wine Region of the Year by magazine

jrobillard@thetribunenews.comNovember 12, 2013 

The vineyards of Paso Robles.

JOE JOHNSTON — jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Wine Enthusiast is raising its glass to Paso Robles, naming it the 2013 Wine Region of the Year.

The magazine applauds the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area, which has more than 200 wineries, for reinvigorating itself “with new blood, creativity and rapidly improving wines.”

“Wine regions far more famous than Paso Robles produce great wines, but few places exhibit the spirit and can-do positivity of this Central Coast appellation,” writes Steve Heimoff, the magazine’s California editor. “It’s not easy for a wine region to reinvent itself, but Paso is doing it with flair.”

That “flair” is the region following its own path, said Christopher Taranto, communications director for Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

“Nontraditional blends flourish in our region,” Taranto explained. “Why this is important is that other regions look to abide by the traditional paradigm of Bordeaux grapes with Bordeaux grapes, Rhone with Rhone. Paso has defined itself as a region that breaks those rules.”

Wine Enthusiast traces the beginnings of Paso Robles’ successful boutique winery movement to the 1980s, with Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery, Jerry Lohr of J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines and other key players leading the way. The magazine also pours on the praise for today’s “youthful passion” that up-and-coming winemakers bring to the area, mentioning the talents of Matt Villard of MCV Wines and Brian Brown of ONX Wines.

Because of the national and international reach of Wine Enthusiast, both Taranto and Shonna Howenstine, Paso Robles’ tourism coordinator, expect to see a bump in tourism.

“The tourism industry locally is buzzing about it,” Howenstine said. “People will want to experience firsthand all of the great things a highly respected wine publication has to say about Paso.”

The San Luis Obispo County grape-growing region already logs more than 1 million winery tourist visits a year, according to the Wine Country Alliance.

In this year’s Wine Region of the Year category, Paso Robles was up against four other wine regions: Walla Walla Valley in Washington state, Douro Valley in Portugal, Rias Baixas in Spain and Stellenbosch in South Africa.

Previous winners of the Wine Region of the Year award include Ribera del Duero, Spain, in 2012, and Prosecco, Italy, in 2011.

The 2013 Wine Star Award winners were announced Tuesday in categories ranging from European Winery of the Year to Retailer of the Year. For a full list, go to www.winemag.com.

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